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01 Feb 22:30

the new hire who showed up is not the same person we interviewed

by Ask a Manager
Sharon Z


This post, the new hire who showed up is not the same person we interviewed , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

This is a situation currently unfolding at my husband’s office so I’m a very amused bystander and thought I’d get your opinion on this craziness.

My husband works in IT and is on the leadership team at a midsized private company. He was part of a panel that recently interviewed a number of folks for an open position on his team. They are entirely remote. They had a few candidates for a first and second round, and had one make it to a third final round before an offer. “John” accepted the offer and started last week!

Except … it’s not the John my husband remembers. My husband was confused and said the following things were odd:

– John has different hair and now wears glasses.

– John is talking extensively about working in a garage because his three children and wife are home. In the interview, he made references to being single and was visibly in an indoor desk area.

– John can’t answer a number of questions that they previously discussed in the interview, things pretty pivotal to the position.

– Husband describes John as being aloof and pretty timid whereas John was confident and articulate when they interviewed him.

He is convinced this is not the person they hired. I agreed that all those things taken together make this very odd but each one could have a valid explanation. I told him the most likely explanation is the hiring committee simply mixed up the candidates (or HR did) and the wrong John was offered and accepted. He agreed but said since only one candidate made it to the third round, that is really unlikely (other candidates had already been sent rejections before the third round even occurred). He’s confident they couldn’t have been mixed up.

All of this is a bit moot as my husband is in his notice period and will be moving to a new company in a few weeks … but he feels like he is going crazy. So my question is … is this a thing?! In a now mostly virtual world, are people perhaps paying people to conduct interviews for them?!?

The situation is actively unfolding so I’m sure I’ll have updates. The less mature side of me wants him to start planting fake references to the interview conversations they had to see if John bites, but I digress.

After receiving this letter, I got updates. Many updates (probably because I greeted each one enthusiastically and requested more)! So let’s do those first and then get to the question.

Update 1

11:57 am

A very quick update!

My husband just came out of his office and said he has a text from his boss “Holly” on his personal cell because she didn’t want it on the company network. She wants to know if he thinks John is acting a lot different than the John they hired. He responded and told her all of his suspicions with the caveat that he didn’t want to accuse him of anything but something is very off. She too thinks it’s unlikely candidates were mixed up because she has his resume and John claims all the same work history/credentials as the John they interviewed.

They are on a call with HR as I type this. Unclear if they are working out an error by the hiring committee /HR or unraveling fraud. More to come.

Alas, my planting fake call-backs idea had no time to come to fruition.

Update 2

12:25 pm

Husband just got off a call with Holly, their HR business partner, and the internal recruiter who sent the offer. They confirmed the right candidate was offered a job and agreed many things were odd. (Another oddity revealed on that phone call … John didn’t know who Holly was; she had to reintroduce herself and he asked about her role … Holly was on two of three rounds of interviews and they extensively reviewed their org chart and her role.)

They are currently speaking with their legal team to discuss options and when to bring John into the mix to try to explain.

Update 3

1:43 pm

It’s definitely been a crazy morning! They are waiting to hear back from legal — I think they are weighing whether they confront John and let him try to explain or let him go anyway. He either lied about his identity or lied about his experience since he’s unable to speak about the basics of the job now so regardless it seems like he will be gone. I will keep you updated on what he learns next!

Husband in a rabbit hole of research now and apparently this fake interviewing is a thing (the job in question is a mulesoft architect). Bizarre!

Update 4

3:13 pm

They heard back from legal … who are less than thrilled about the situation! They approved HR to have a conversation with John regarding what has been reported (more in the vein of “there’s been some concerns about performance and you overselling abilities” and less of the We Think You Are a Liar route).

In the meantime, legal approved security to put a trace on John’s computer to review if there have been outside messages or if his work is being completed with outside help or on a different computer altogether. My husband said the general consensus among the group on the call is that the talk with HR is going to send up a quick red flag and John is likely to resign claiming a poor fit rather than get caught committing or admitting fraud.

Hopefully another fun update soon! My husband is getting sick of me sitting against his office door eavesdropping :)

Update 5

5:07 pm

I think my last update for a while: as soon as HR got on the call with him, before they could get through their first question, John said the words “I quit” and hung up the calls. He has since been unreachable!!

So good riddance John. Their security teams are trying to discover what all he downloaded, if they’ll be able to get their equipment back, is John really his real name, etc. !!

Incredibly bizarre situation. Hoping it was a failed case of trying to get a job and not trying to steal company info but who knows — they may never!

First, thank you for this saga, which I found highly diverting.

So yeah, in response to whether this is a thing … as your husband found, the internet claims it’s a thing, particularly in IT jobs and largely because of the increase in virtual interviewing. The idea is that one person interviews and another takes the job, or one person interviews while another person feeds them answers. You could short-circuit the first category by having people show I.D. at the start of virtual interviews, but the second category is harder and you’d need to address it by being forthright and direct if the person you hire doesn’t seem to have the skills they appeared to have in the interview … which is something good managers should do regardless, but it’s easy to fall into thinking maybe the person is just still adjusting to the role and then suddenly you’re two months in with someone who was never going to be able to do the job because they Cyrano de Bergerac’d their interview.